Expedition to Mongolia with Tom Richardson

Apart from being a member of the team at Outside in Hathersage I have also been leading trips to the Greater Ranges for KE Adventure Travel for many years. Customers in the shop or clients in my groups regularly ask "what is your favourite trip?". My standard both truthful and perhaps unhelpful answer is to say that it is either the trip I am on at the moment or the one I have most recently returned from. If however I was really pressed to make a very short list of top locations, whilst I would struggle, one thing would be certain and that is that "Khuiten - the World's most remote mountain" would be there somewhere.

2013 was my 6th...well the word is expedition really, to this fantastic area in the fast west of Mongolia where the mountains form the junction between that country, Russia and China. It is an area of alpine height peaks (Khuiten is 4374m) but there are no roads or settlements for miles in any direction.

Arriving in Bayon Olgii, Mongolia  7 hours of offroading in Mongolia

Arriving in style!

It's not an easy trip. Unlike say, Nepal, there are no porters to carry our loads and no Sherpas to help. To reach base camp we fly for 4 hours from the capital Ulaan Bataar to the small town of Bayon Olgii. From there 7 hours off road driving in Russian jeeps takes us to the Road Head. A strange name for the  place as Dirt Track Head would be better. A days trek leads us to our base camp, comprising two gers, known elsewhere as yurts. They form our kitchen and dining areas and are a welcome shelter from the wind and snow that can often arrive suddenly even in summer.

mongolian basecamp  Not you're average mess tent - Dining in a yurt

This summer the weather looked benign when we arrived so we thought we'd make the most of it, so after a day of training on the glacier we set off up the Potanin Glacier roped together in two parties carrying full camping and climbing equipment for three days and two nights. I lead one rope with 3 clients and our agent, friend and Mongolian resident from Ulaan Bataar, Australian mountaineer Graham Taylor lead 2 others.

Roping up for glacier travel in mongolia  glacier travel mongolia

The blizzard arrived at high camp just after we did giving us just enough time to secure the tents on the snow.

For me as leader one of the toughest tasks of this trip is doing the cooking for 7, especially when it is in a blizzard. Over a period of hours, using two MSR XGK EX stoves under one big pot, snow was melted and food prepared and served to the team in their tents. Not quite a banquet but there were no complaints.

boots and stove  Tom Richardson in Mongolia

The blizzard raged until about dawn. About a foot of snow had fallen. Clearly the main objective, Khuiten was out of the question, the slopes and ridges would be plastered in deep avalanche prone snow. Instead we went for the second and safer objective Narindal, at 4183m it+s summit is the junction between Russia ,China and Mongolia and gives a fantastic view with no trace of humanity in any direction.

We returned to high camp and the next day, in improving weather, descended back to Base Camp.

high camp  

The third peak on the agenda is an unusual, challenging but not technical summit that is reached via scree, scrambling and a little snow. It is Malchin at 4037m. We took a rope to protect the team as we crossed a steep snow gully just below the summit. This second summit is a real treat, giving views all along the range to mountains with evocative names like Sunset Peak, Eagle Peak and Snow Church all rising above glaciers named after the first explorers Potaniin and Alexander.

mountains of the Mongol-Altai  Mongolia Climbing

It seemed that the weather was getting better and better, so on the penultimate morning of our time at Base camp I suggested to the team that we might have an option to try again for Khuiten. I had achieved the plan once before in 2004 but it was tough. We would leave after dinner in the evening and make a night ascent of Khuiten from Base Camp and return for breakfast next day. It would make the best use of night time freezing conditions but would be a 12hrs+ excursion.

Two clients elected not to go so during the day I lead them to a walk up/scramble peak to the south of Base Camp called Gejadien.It is probably the best viewpoint of the whole range.

Gejadien in Mongolia  On the Summit of Gejadien, Mongolia

After dinner at 9pm the rest of us set off for the summit of Khuiten as a single roped team.

Initially the glacier was in great condition and combined with our light packs we moved quickly up to the height of our previous High camp. From there we entered a glacier filled valley that leads to a col from which we aimed to climb a steep ridge which eventually leads to the summit.

Graham and I alternated breaking trail as the snow got deeper and deeper. Normally the crevasses in the glacier in the valley are clearly visible but despite the full moon, there was no sign, just smooth deep snow. Gradually it became obvious that unless the wind had blown the snow from the col and ridge above and there had been some substantial freeze thaw to consolidate the snow pack, we would again not make it up Khuiten. We were right, once on the col the conditions were much worse. It was cold and windy and there was about 1 metre deep of soft powdery snow.It was an easy decision for me to make. At 3.30am we turned and descended. The snow presented an avalanche risk without safe anchors and of course we would have had to come down the same way.

Our highpoint on Khuiten, Mongolia  Tom Richardson on Khuiten, Mongolia

At 7am we strolled into Base Camp, had some hot drinks and slept for a few hours before packing up camp and starting the 5 hour trek back to the Road Head.

As if the day wasn't long enough, once we reached it we could not miss the chance to visit one of the local families who live in a ger and graze their animals in the area during summer. The main attraction was the opportunity to see and hold their hunting eagle.

None of us had trouble going to sleep that night.

Four days later I was back home in Sheffield reflecting on another fantastic mountain adventure.

Tom Richardson, in his element


Tom works in the boot room at Outside in Hathersage. Check out his book, "Judgement Days in a Mountaineering Life".

By Tom Richardson
Footwear and expedition specialist

View other articles by
Tom Richardson
Team Photo


Four Weeks in France

Our four weeks in Briançon started with a walk into the mountains above Ailefroide to the Refuge du Glacier Blanc. The Barre des Écrins and Mont Pelvoux were a splendid backdrop to a lunch stop shared with a friendly marmot and a bold pine marten. Another walk that wandered along the French & Italian border on the Cime de Fournier was memorable for the soaring presence of a huge eagle that circled just above us. Jane’s first ever experience of a via ferrata ascended the cliffs above Briançon to the Croix de Toulouse – a worthy introduction to this exhilarating form of climbing. More walking, via ferrata and mountain biking followed, with a 10-pitch route squeezed in with a visiting friend - and we’ve still got two weeks to go!

Jane near trhe Refuge du Glacier Blanc with Mont Pelvoux behind

Jane near the Refuge du Glacier Blanc (Mont Pelvoux in background)

Jane on the Voie des Balmes via ferrata

The brilliant Voie des Balmes via ferrata

Biking the GR50 high above briancon

On the GR50 high above Briançon

The pinnacle half way up Toulouse to Win

The pinnacle half way up the 250m Toulouse To Win

Chris and Jane

Au revoir… C&J


Chris is Outside's "Book Man" and Jane works at Outside Head Office

By Chris Harle
The 'Book Man'

View other articles by
Chris Harle
Team Photo


Return to the classics

Considering my son Edward was only 8 weeks old I was lucky to be granted a pass out by my wife Jane for a day's climbing. Mike and I grabbed the chance to head for North Wales and continue with our Classic Rock tick list.

We set off early in the morning but it still wasn't early enough to beat the summer holiday crowds to the Llanberis Pass. On arriving we found the parking full and hordes of people in the pass. Abandoning our plan for the Cromlech, we made our way instead to the Ogwen Valley with Tryfan in mind, which was much quieter.

The view looking west from the north ridge of Tryfan

We made our way up to Heather Terrace in great weather. Grooved Arete was our main aim but finding a team racking up at the bottom we kept walking, continuing past First Pinnacle Rib (which unsurprisingly also had a team racking up at the bottom). Finally we reached Gashed Crag situated left of the East Face.

Heading along Heather Terrace

This was an interesting climb with a very thrutchy main pitch which takes you right of "The Gash".  We finished the route with a nice little overhung 4c corner which I believe is the last pitch of Crackerjack, rather than taking the easier route which trends off right to avoid the steeper ground. 

Gashed Crag Thrutch

Once on the summit we dashed back round to Heather Terrace to avoid the flying ants and eat our lunch. 

Grooved Arete was now free so we got ourselves sorted and started up it.  It’s a fantastic route with good climbing all the way and exposure towards the top as you step right off the "Knight's Move" pitch; highly recommended!

LEFT: Mike on Grooved Arete. RIGHT: Top pitch on Grooved Arete

We topped out and scrambled back down the North Ridge to get back to the car and headed back to the Peak District in time for Edward's bath time; not bad going considering the climbs totalled 430 metres!


Rob is the Shop Manager at Outside Hathersage

By Rob Turnbull
Managing Director

View other articles by
Rob Turnbull
Team Photo


Lundy Pilgrimage

Unlike previous years our week on Lundy was blessed with fairly continuous sunshine. Six days of climbing meant Richard and I could tick off a bunch of mid-grade classics in the company of remarkably few other climbers.

Chris Harle padding up the friction classic Satan's Slip E1 5a, Lundy

Chris Harle padding up Satan's Slip, E1 5a

Number 1 on my hit list was Satan’s Slip E1 5a; very spaced protection on a central line up the Devil’s Slide made for a totally brilliant climb. Albion VS 4c takes the prominent corner to the left.

Richard Wheeldon on Margin, VS 5a, Lundy

Richard Wheeldon on Margin, VS 5a

Margin VS 5a forces an unlikely way through a large overhang with continuing interest above up a sea-grassed crack.

Chris Harle nearing the top of Albion VS 4c, Lundy

Nearing the top of Albion VS 4c

Richard Wheeldon on the atmospheric Jug of Punch VS 4b, Lundy

Richard Wheeldon on Jug of Punch, VS 4b

Another magnificent VS in an atmospheric position overlooking Short Story Zawn and a sea-washed tunnel - Jug of Punch VS 4b

Other recommendations:

Invincible VS 4c on Needle Rock

American Beauty HVS/E1 5a – Grand Falls Zawn

Nonexpectis Jugsimisius HVS 5a – Threequarter Buttress South

A Pint of Old Light – Marisco Tavern


Chris is Outside's Book Man


By Chris Harle
The 'Book Man'

View other articles by
Chris Harle
Team Photo


The next best thing to wild camping

If you’re looking for an awesome campsite in Pembrokeshire… this is the place to go

Hillfort Tipis

Hillfort Tipis viewed from the outcrop

The site, Hillfort Tipis, is on the Pencaer peninsula just west of Fishguard on the north Pembroke coast. It covers about thirty acres with only around sixteen pitches, so you're never closer than 25m from your nearest neighbour. The land is on high ground about a third of a mile inland just south of Strumble Head lighthouse.

The pitches are on fairly coarse meadow-mown grass and each spot has its own portable fire-pit; so you can cook on wood embers and sit around a cheery blaze in the evening. The fire pits are an ingenious re-cycling of defunct washing machine drums (can't think of many other sites in the UK that allow fires!)

Whichever way you look there are great views, either of the sea, or coastal cliffs, or inland craggy outcrops, or peaceful farmland and there are spectacular evening sunsets over the Irish Sea.

Sunset on the hill fort

Sunset on the hill fort

You can take your own tent, but if you’re up for splashing out on a spot of "Glamping" they've got some Tipis and three metre Bell Tents all tarted up with carpets, duvets and fairy lights etc; there's even an open air, log fuelled, hot-tub-thingy you can use for a day (for a small fee). The ablutions are simple but perfectly adequate but if you want power showers and hairdryers you'll probably want to go somewhere more municipal.

We sat in the evenings gazing into an un-light-polluted sky and watched satellites, the space station and scores of shooting stars as the Perseid meteor shower streaked across the night sky. And when the wind dropped it was quiet; very quiet. It's not on the way to anywhere, so there is practically no passing traffic noise. You can however hear the Royal Navy blasting away at stuff in the distance from time to time.

There is also good news if you're planning a climbing trip; right next to the camping fields is an Iron Age hill fort surrounding a steep rocky outcrop of hard igneous rock. Some vertical parts of the outcrop rise to about 20m so there is plenty of scope for bouldering or scrambling around after breakfast, there's possibly even a route or two to be had. And there's a second and a third hill fort in close proximity each with its own hefty boulders and craggy outcrops. There's plenty of sea cliff climbing within a short driving distance, including the renowned DWS site of Barrel Zawn (about 25 mins away).

If you are more of a walker, there's the stunning Pembrokeshire Coastal Path just a few minutes from your tent as well as quiet inland footpaths and bridleways. And, if you're into culture and ancient history, you can't move without running into burial chambers, hill forts and prehistoric settlements, the place is teeming with them! Just over the hill is the site of the last invasion of mainland UK where "those French" landed in 1797 but were soundly sorted by the Pembroke Yeomanry and (it seems) some stout Welsh housewives with pitchforks!

The owner of the site, John, is no officious warden; he's more of a laid back convivial host and he will supply logs for the fire and fresh fish (when available) at a good price. On our first night we bought a load of fresh-caught mackerel from him for only a fiver and smoked them over the fire.

Dinner over the fire

Dinner over the fire

View from the tent

View from the tent.

We found the location on the Cool Camping website coolcamping.co.uk and John has his own website hillfort-tipis.co.uk and a Facebook page with some great pictures and reviews to whet your appetite.



Outside's Peter Mummery and his wife Harriet stayed for a week in mid-August and had a wonderful mooching about holiday.

By Pete Mummery
Project Manager

View other articles by
Pete Mummery
Team Photo
Visa, MasterCard and PayPal Accepted 5 Star Reviews from Trust Pilot

Outside.co.uk uses cookies and some may have already been set. Please click the button to agree and remove this message.

If you continue to use the site we'll assume you're happy to accept the cookies. Find out more .